The need to breed and reproduce is hardwired into life’s DNA. Only those species that ensure the birth of the next generation continue on this Earth. Man’s technology has largely negated the need for large families, but some still strive to push the limits of human fertility, as you’ll soon see…
10. Secret Insemination of Hundreds
When sperm banks opened their doors it meant that women were no longer dependant on finding a man to start a family. Single women, women whose partners had fertility issues, and those in same-sex relationships could now visit a local fertility clinic and choose from a number of sperm donors to father their children. Hoping to help these women, Bertold Wiesner and his wife Mary founded a fertility clinic in London, England. From 1943 to 1962 he helped over 1,500 women conceive using what they thought was the sperm of a variety of successful, smart, and strong sperm donors.
Decades later, DNA tests would reveal that, far from a large group of donors, Wiesner was mostly using his own sperm, and so was the father of up to two-thirds of the children conceived at his clinic. This created a potential nightmare for his offspring as there is a higher chance of hooking up with unknown half-brothers or sisters. Wiesner died in 1972, years before his actions were discovered. One of his children, Barry Stevens, created a documentary about this discovery and his mission to track down his multitude of siblings, thought to push into the high hundreds.
9. Greatest Number of Children Born to One Mother
In western Russia lies the third largest town in the Ivanovo province, Shuya. It holds the title of being the home of one of the biggest families in history: the spawn of Mr. and Mrs. Feodor Vassilyev. They lived in the 18th century during the reign of a number of Russian Emperors and Empresses including Catherine the Great. Throughout the 76-year life of Mrs. Vassilyev, she gave birth 27 times to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets for a total of 69 children.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists her as the record holder for the greatest number of children born to one mother. Incredibly, her husband would go on to remarry and have another 18 children with a second wife for a total of 87 children in total.
8. Biggest Recent Family
Mohammed Bello Abubakar was a Nigerian preacher who, before he died in January of 2017, married around 130 women and fathered at least 203 children. (The actual numbers are subject for debate, as evidenced by different numbers given in the video above.) In 2008, when he had just 86 wives, his huge family went through 12 kilogram bags of rice costing around $915 every day. Abubakar claims that he doesn’t seek out his wives; rather, they come to him due to his reputation as a talented healer.
When his large family started to attract media attention, Islamic and government officials demanded that he limit himself to four wives as set out in the Koran. He was able to argue his own interpretation that the limit wasn’t four, but however many a husband could afford. Until his death, he was able to keep his family intact. When asked how he had the energy to keep so many wives happy, he said “[a]man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control…” so many spouses.
7. Funds for a Full Family
Some people want large families but can’t find anyone with the same desires. This was the case with 24-year-old Japanese businessman Mitsutoki Shigeta, son of billionaire Yasumitsu Shigeta. To get around this problem he used his wealth to set up a baby factory in Thailand. He set up a large group of surrogate mothers and not only fathered 16 children, but was also paying for their upbringing in Bangkok.
Police became suspicious that his growing army of babies was some sort of human trafficking ring and in 2014 raided the nursery where Shigeta’s children were staying. It was then revealed that Shigeta hoped to use his growing family to “win elections”, and wasn’t going to stop having new babies “until he’s dead.” Shigeta has been embroiled in a custody suit with the Thai government. A few years ago he won custody of three of his children and reportedly has recently won custody of the remaining kids.
6. The Real Delivery Men
One of the largest legal sperm donors is an anonymous American who, amazingly, fathered 150 children. This story would eventually spawn the movie Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn. Yeah, that crappy movie was based on a real dude. The real-life donor has remained anonymous, but not all big daddies choose to do so. Long-term donor Michael Rubino waived his privacy protections and it has since been revealed that his sperm donations have helped women have at least 19 children so far.
In 2017, Inside Edition brought all of his children together to meet each other and their shared dad. The half-siblings marveled at the family traits they all shared. Rubino, meanwhile, noted that while he loved all of his kids, he thought the experience was “very exciting” and “a little surreal.”
5. Countless Royal Members
The Emirate of Diriyah, or the First Saudi state, came into being in 1744. The House of Saud is the royal family that ruled Diriyah and what is now known as Saudi Arabia. They are made up of descendants of Muhammad bin Saud, founder of the Emirate of Diriyah, and his brothers. Since then, the members of the Saudi royal family has blossomed to tens of thousands of members with estimates as high as 30,000 princes and princesses. Although only around 2,000 of these hold any large amount of wealth or power, it should be noted.
Controlling the Saudi royal family means control of one of the wealthiest oil-rich countries in history. With so much money up for grabs, the Saudi family has a long history of behind the scenes scheming, intrigue, and even murder. In 1975, King Faisal was assassinated by his nephew Faisal bin Musaid. In 1977, Princess Mishaal bin Fahd al Saud, a great-granddaughter of King Ibn Saud, was killed by firing squad at the age of 19. Recently, the present King’s son Mohammad bin Salman overthrew his cousin Muhammad bin Nayef and took control of the Kingdom as the new Crown Prince. He promptly arrested his royal rivals and held them under guard in an extravagant hotel, as Saudi royals need luxury even in their prisons.
4. Oldest Royal Bloodline
The World Wars saw many of the Kings and Queens of Europe fall, and now only a few Heads of State remain. While the Saudis are one of the largest, their dynasty only started in 1744. The oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world is Japan’s Yamato dynasty, which traces its origins back to 660 BC. Until World War II the Emperor in Japan was seen as a god.
When the Americans, under General Douglas MacArthur, took control of the islands the Japanese feared he would banish the Imperial family. MacArthur, however, wanted to rule the island with as little military resources as possible and thought that Emperor would be a useful way to keep the Japanese people under control. So to this day, the Yamato dynasty lives on. The current Emperor, Akihito, is the 125th Emperor of Japan. An elderly man, he requested retirement and after much debate, the Japanese government will allow him to abdicate on April 30, 2019.
3. Out of Place
The island of Iceland sits in the northern Atlantic and due to its Viking heritage is considered part of Europe even though it appears on maps halfway between Europe and North America. The country has a population of 332,529 that for hundreds of years has been largely isolated from the rest of the world. Inbreeding is a constant concern due to the country’s historically small size and movement of most of the population into the capital city. There has even been an app, Islendiga-App (English: App of Icelanders), developed where people can check if they are related. Its slogan is “Bump the app before you bump in bed.”
In this small, isolated gene pool, scientists recognized that they might be able to find human genes associated with common diseases and then identify treatment. To accomplish this they started a project, deCODE genetics, to look at the DNA of as many Icelandic people as possible. The company went bankrupt, but in 2015 it was snatched up, along with its huge database and medical records of most of the Icelandic population, by a Chinese company, WuXi PharmaTech, for $65 million.
In 2010, while investigating the island’s population, deCODE genetics discovered that about 350 people in Iceland carried genetic markings that are only found in North American Native and Asian populations. They were able to rule out recent immigrants and found that the genetic markings are likely from when, 500 years before Columbus, the Vikings visited North America around the year 1000. The locals forced the Vikings to abandon their New World colony but it appears at least one woman came back with the Vikings and her lineage can be found in 350 of her Icelandic descendants.
2. Largest Baby Grouping at a Single Time
Throughout history, twins and even triplets haven’t exactly been common, but they also aren’t completely rare. Larger amounts of “multiple births,” like quadruplets and quintuplets, have happened but sadly the infants rarely live long past birth. With the introduction of fertility treatment and better prenatal care, larger groups of surviving multiple births are possible. At least two sets of nonuplets (9) have occurred, but tragically the babies didn’t survive. The largest number of babies to survive labor is 8, by the infamous Octomom.
After much publicity, Octomom (real name Nadya Suleman) gave birth to the eight children on January 26, 2009, in Bellflower, California. Suleman already had six other young children (making 14 in total) and was unemployed, on welfare, and with no prospects of being able to support such a large and demanding family. She holds the Guinness world record for most surviving children delivered in a single birth. When her fame didn’t pan out with reality shows or anything else in Hollywood, Suleman delved into adult entertainment, releasing Octomom Home Alone in the summer of 2012. Michael Kamrava, the doctor who impregnated Suleman, lost his doctor’s license in 2011 after it was determined that he showed gross negligence in using so many embryos.
1. History’s Busiest Father
Recent breakthroughs in genetic analysis have meant that, by looking at our DNA, we can determine our ancestry. Another fruit from this line of discovery has revealed that some historic super-fathers have male descendants that number in the millions. Just one study in Asia found 11 of these historic super-dads. The authors of the study concluded that the region’s legacy of the ruling classes having hundreds of wives and lovers as the reason for such large amounts of male offspring. Nine of the fathers have been lost in the sands of time. One can be traced to a 16th-century Qinq Dynasty ruler named Giocangga and the remaining father is none other than the famous Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan. Yeah, you probably could have guessed that one.
Through conquest and harsh diplomacy, Genghis Khan created the largest land empire in history. Before he died in 1227 he is thought to have fathered thousands of children with his official wives, hundreds of minor wives, and various concubines and women taken in conquest. Many of these sons went on to become rulers, also with many wives, further increasing his descendants. Scientists studying the Y-chromosome (that is only passed down from father to son) determined that 0.5 percent of the males in the world, or roughly 16 million people are descendants of Genghis Khan today.